Today is a day to pause and remember those gave their lives to preserve our freedom and those who continue to offer up that ultimate sacrifice. Unfortunately, there are some who are ready to trade our freedom for imagined security or even physical comfort. When I read or hear of that, I think what did those brave souls fight for? What did they die for?
I think of my dad, John Genis, who fought in the 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division in World War II. He was wounded at Anzio, May 25, 1944; France, Nov. 3, 1944; Germany, Dec. 26, 1944; and in France again, February 5, 1945; and was highly decorated. He was an ardent patriot who did not believe in compromise.
When going through his papers after he passed away in 2001, we came across some reminiscenses of his experience in World War II. Here is an excerpt:
Sailed from Newport News June 18, 1943 on the Mariposa. Arrived in Casablanca June 25, 1943. The Mariposa was a converted luxury liner that could outrun the submarines.
The worst part of the trip was the zigzagging. With the waves as high as twenty seven feet, you were bounced from wall to wall. One night a knucklehead lit a match and got put in the brig. Somehow, I was put in charge. The brig was in the front of the ship. I dreaded going out on deck at night to the brig with the ship changing course constantly.
We arrived at Casablanca in the afternoon. You could smell Africa before you could see it. From a distance, Casablanca, glistening white, looked picturesque. As we glided into the harbor, we could see some of the French ships that were sunk.
It was evening by the time we got off the ship. I was surprised to see the beggars with nothing but burlap sacks for clothes. The French did not allow the native Moroccans into their stores to shop.
We marched inland to the outskirts of Casablanca and bedded down for the night. We could hear the barking dogs, the beat of drums, and Arabian music coming from old Medina. [Remember this was an ordinary American from the Midwest.] With the light of dawn, we discovered scorpions crawling all around us.
We were loaded into 40 & 8 cars (forty men or eight horses), and taken to Oran. July 8 we boarded the LCIs and July 10 we landed in Sicily. Our LCI came in about six miles from where we were supposed to land. The LCI hit a sandbar, dumped us, and got out.
The sandbar was not the beach. The water was about twenty feet deep between the beach and the sandbar. What a mess!
We lost some equipment, but in a way, we were lucky. The Germans were ready and waiting at the landing. Colonel was captured. Before the invasion of Sicily, he told us that anyone captured was a ”knot head”. We managed to capture the airport.
The casualties were pretty heavy. Our Company “A” mess was able to feed the whole battalion. I can’t forget the horror of humans inflicting pain on other humans, the horror of phosphorus shells, the horror of Bloody Ridge.